A common (yet often dreaded) interview question is, “What is your weakness?” because who wants to talk about what they aren’t good at? However, employers often ask this question to better understand who you are as a candidate, how you’ll fit in the role, and where they may need to support you if they hire you.
But even when you understand why an employer asks this question, you still have to figure out which weakness is “good” for a job interview. Do you talk about your lack of technical abilities? Your underdeveloped communication skills? Your undying love of all things Housewives?
There are “good” weaknesses you can feel comfortable talking about during a job interview as long as you frame your answer correctly. This guide will cover all that.
Why Do Employers Ask ‘What Is Your Weakness?’ in a Job Interview?
The employer isn’t trying to get you to confess that you have no idea what you’re doing. You can be confident you’re qualified for the role, since your resume and cover letter helped you land the interview, as long as you remember those pieces are only part of the puzzle.
Asking about your weaknesses helps the employer better connect what’s on your resume to what you can or can’t do. “When employers ask about weaknesses, they want to see if there are any red flags with a job seeker,” says career advisor Laci Baker, MEd, CCMC, CPRW, NCOPE. For example, you can claim you’re proficient with Microsoft Excel, but what does that really mean? Are you a pro at pivot tables, or are your skills more along the lines of being able to sum a column?
The other reason employers ask about your weakness in a job interview is to measure how self-aware you are. No one is perfect, and your willingness to discuss your weakness in a job interview demonstrates you know what skills or abilities you lack and are humble enough to own them.
How to Answer ‘What Is Your Weakness?’ in a Job Interview
Asking about your weakness during a job interview is common, but it may not always be phrased as, “What is your greatest weakness?” Any question that asks what you’re not good at is another way of asking about your weakness. It could sound like:
- What technical skills do you feel you lack?
- Are there any parts of the job description you feel underqualified for?
- Are there any skills you need to improve to perform the job?
No matter how the question is phrased, follow these tips to help you frame your answer.
1. Be Honest
Discussing your weaknesses in any situation requires honesty and vulnerability. That might be extra hard to do in a job interview. However, saying you have no weaknesses will likely come across as arrogant or dishonest and could hurt your chances of getting the job. Likewise, choosing something that really isn’t a weakness (like, “I love to work!”) can come across as scripted and inauthentic.
Being honest about your weakness means picking something you are truly weak in and being open about why it’s a weakness.
To quell any possible anxiety about revealing your weakness during an interview, remember that as much as the interviewer is assessing you, you are assessing the company. How the hiring manager responds can give you valuable insight into how supportive the company’s culture may or may not be if you work there.
“If the employer is worth the job seeker’s time, [the employer] is going to appreciate honesty. Being human and genuine can be just what they are looking for when asking this question,” says Baker.
2. Focus on Behavior
As you frame your answer, focus it on your behavior, which (in most cases) is something you can control and change.
For example, if your weakness is that you have trouble delegating, some of your answer should explain why you have trouble delegating. This demonstrates that you’re aware it’s a problem, and know why it happens. So, maybe you have trouble delegating because you’re so used to doing everything by yourself and find it difficult to let go of things.
3. Talk About Improvements
The final step for talking about your weakness in a job interview is explaining what you’re doing to strengthen your weakness. This shows that not only do you know where your weak spots are but you’re also willing to do the necessary work to improve.
What Are ‘Good’ Weaknesses for a Job Interview?
In addition to understanding the right way to frame your answer, you also need to decide which weaknesses to discuss (yes, sometimes interviewers ask you for more than one weakness!). So, identify one “main” weakness, have a few others ready to go, and keep two tips in mind.
Choose an Unrelated Weakness
First, don’t choose a job skill that’s related to the role. For example, if the job description says you need to know Ruby on Rails, you wouldn’t want to say you’re terrible at Ruby on Rails!
The trick is to pick a weakness that won’t directly impact your ability to do the job unless you can explain how you’re improving that weakness. “If [the job seeker] has an area of growth and knows they’ll need to develop it, they can feel OK in sharing that ‘weakness’ and be honest about the areas of development or lack of knowledge,” says Baker.
So, for a business development role, you might talk about how you can be overly critical of yourself, especially when you don’t close the deal. But also talk about how you use that to make the next presentation better.
Pick a ‘True’ Weakness
Second, the weakness you choose shouldn’t be fake. For example, if you say you’re a perfectionist, work too much, or care too much about the job, most hiring managers aren’t going to believe you. To be sure, these are weaknesses, but they are too general and unrealistic. Likewise, saying “chocolate” might get a polite laugh, but if you don’t have a plausible weakness to discuss, you won’t impress the interviewer.
Bonus Tip: Keep It Professional
As a bonus tip, you can choose a personal weakness as long as you relate it to the role. For example, if you have a hard time letting go of things, make sure you’re talking about how you have trouble delegating, not that you’re still not over the cancellation of your favorite TV show.
Sample List of ‘Good’ Weaknesses
While there are plenty of weaknesses to choose from, here’s a list of “good” weaknesses you can consider talking about in your job interview:
- Being too direct
- Difficulty delegating
- Overly self-critical
- Dislike making public presentations
- Lacking experience in specific hard skills, like software, programming languages, or data analytics.
- Hard time saying “no”
- Impatience with long timelines or processes
- Trouble asking for help
- Difficulty giving feedback to others
- Lack of experience (for an entry-level job)
So, how do you put all these pieces together? Here are a few sample answers to help you out.
My weakness is that I’m terrible at writing headlines. I never know what makes something “click-worthy.” However, I’ve found a couple of automated tools that offer some feedback on possible headlines. That’s given me the chance to experiment with different versions to test and see which ones have higher click-through rates, which helps me see what works and what doesn’t.
My weakness is that I’m a little too detail-oriented. While people know they can count on me to catch the tiniest error, it has been known to bog me down a bit. Sometimes, I spend far too much time ensuring something is absolutely perfect instead of accepting that “good enough” is good enough! I’ve been working on letting go of some of this by setting a time limit and turning the work in when the alarm goes off.
My weakness for this role is that I don’t have a lot of related experience, but that’s because this would be my first job. My only job to this point has been school, which I know isn’t quite the same thing. But I love learning new things, which is part of why I treated school as my job. I may not know much about working, but I’m very teachable and willing to take on whatever tasks you throw my way.
Should You Turn Your Weakness Into a Strength?
You may have heard that when you’re discussing your weakness in a job interview, you should find a way to turn it into a strength. For example, if your weakness is having trouble disconnecting from work, you might spin that into, “which means I’m always around when clients need something.” Likewise, if your weakness is that you never turn work down, you might say that it shows how dependable and reliable you are.
The problem with these examples, though, is that the hiring manager may not feel your positive spin is so positive. For example, saying that the inability to disconnect from work means you’re always there for the client could also mean you have poor work-life balance and are at risk of burning out.
However, in some instances, it can make sense to reframe your weakness as a strength. But you need to frame it authentically and talk about how you’re improving the weakness.
Suppose your weakness is a fear of public speaking. You might say that you hate being the center of attention and prefer letting others lead presentations even if you did a bulk of the work, but this is because you’re a supportive team player. While not everyone wants to be in a leadership role, the hiring manager may interpret your answer to mean that you aren’t willing to take risks, experiment, or lead when necessary.
You can still say you like being a supportive team player because that’s important. But also talk about how you’re working on overcoming your fear by speaking up at staff meetings or volunteering to lead group projects.